The central message of President Zuma’s second inaugural address is that, during the next five years, his new government will launch the "second phase of our transition from apartheid to a national democratic society.
This second phase will involve the implementation of radical socio-economic transformation policies and programmes over the next five years."
The bad news for white South Africans is that the 'second phase' is aimed primarily at their established and legitimate economic interests.
The 'second phase' - which has its roots deep in the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution - first surfaced in March 2012 when Jeff Radebe presented the ANC’s policy proposals in the run-up to the 2012 Policy Conference.
According to Radebe, changes in the balance of forces in South Africa and globally had opened the way for the ANC to dispense with the cumbersome constitutional compromises on which the 'first transition' was based. It was now in a position to move boldly forward toward a "second transition" aimed at securing "economic emancipation in our lifetime."
He said that "our first transition embodied a framework and a national consensus that may have been appropriate for political emancipation - a political transition - but has proven inadequate and inappropriate for our social and economic transformation phase."
The need for a second transition - or a second phase of the transition - dominated the subsequent ANC Policy Conference in July 2012 and was later endorsed by the ANC’s National Conference. In his closing statement to the Policy Conference, President Zuma said that white males continued to dominate the economy; to control the wealth and to occupy most of the top jobs. The implication was that the triple crisis of unemployment, inequality and poverty had been caused by white males and the continuing impact of "apartheid colonialism".
The President echoed Radebe’s belief that balance of forces had shifted sufficiently in South Africa and internationally for the ANC to abandon compromises it made during the political transition. "We had to make certain compromises in the national interest... For example, we had to be cautious about restructuring the economy, in order to maintain economic stability and confidence at the time." Such caution was apparently no longer necessary.
President Zuma again referred to the 'second phase' in his speech at the opening of Parliament this year. He said that "after the elections, the country will enter a new radical phase in which we shall implement socio-economic transformation policies and programmes that will meaningfully address poverty, unemployment and inequality."
The President said that "we have achieved political freedom, now we must achieve economic freedom, and ensure that the ownership, management and control of the economy is deracialised further".
So the references in the inauguration speech to the 'second phase' were a reconfirmation of what has become a central theme in ANC policy. The next five years will be characterised by "the implementation of radical socio-economic transformation policies and programmes" which will include the accelerated implementation of employment equity, black economic empowerment, land restitution and redistribution and "other forms of (unspecified) empowerment."
The second theme of the president’s inaugural address was his commitment to the implementation of the National Development Plan(NDP). Most South Africans - and most businessmen - support the NDP’s laudable social and economic goals. However, there are serious dissonances between many of the NDP’s goals and the government’s present actions and policies.
- President Zuma wants to "grow an inclusive economy which creates jobs and provides opportunities for all". But how will he do this if he scares off foreign and domestic investors by repudiating bilateral investment treaties; by raising doubts about property rights and by failing to bring the world’s most fractious and employer-unfriendly trade unions into line?
- He calls for state-owned enterprises and development finance institutions to become "engines of development, complementing the State in promoting inclusive economic growth." Which state-owned enterprises is he counting on? Eskom? SAA? The SABC?
- He says that the government will "eradicate corruption and inefficiency in the public service" - but how can he expect to be taken seriously while he and his colleagues continue to defend the expenditure of R246 million on his private home - and while they fight tooth and nail to oppose the reimposition of charges against Gen. Richard Mdluli?
- President Zuma says that he wants to promote productivity within the public service that will ensure "much tighter accountability, with firm consequences where there is a failure to deliver services to our people". Excellent. But how will the government achieve this if it continues - contrary to the recommendations of the NDP - to fill key posts with cadres who do not have the qualifications, skills or experience that such posts require?
- Finally, the President says that "we will need the backing of a united and cohesive nation behind us as we move South Africa forward". He promises that "we will work together to promote unity, understanding and tolerance across race and colour lines, as we build a South Africa that truly belongs to all." Great. But how is he going to promote national unity and reconciliation when one of the main thrusts of the second phase involves the increasing racialisation of our society through the implementation of policies - based on demographic representivity - that will clearly harm the legitimate interests of racial minorities?
Perhaps the greatest dissonance regarding the President’s commitment to the implementation of the NDP is the fact that his alliance partners COSATU and the SACP are bitterly opposed to many of its central recommendations. COSATU and the SACP will have even more influence during his second term. The veteran journalist Ferial Haffajee has named former SACP chairman, Gwede Mantashe - who is also Secretary-General of the ANC - as the most powerful man in the country. The key question is whether the new Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, will have the power or the will to face down the left wing and ensure that the NDP is meaningfully implemented.
In fact, the NDP and the 'second phase' are mutually exclusive. The most likely outcome is that the new and cumbersome government (35 ministers and 37 deputy ministers) will try to implement watered down versions of both courses - and will as a consequence continue to fail to take decisive and effective action to address South Africa’s mounting problems.
In his inaugural address President Zuma observed that "we have successfully completed the first (political and constitutional) phase of transformation." That is true. However, our success was firmly based on the fact that all South Africans were involved in the decisions that underlay our constitutional transformation. The problem is that the government has not consulted with those who will be negatively affected by its proposed second phase.
On 31 January this year, FW de Klerk called for serious talks on the second phase between the government and all those involved - including our minorities, our farmers, the media, civil society organizations; and small and large businesses. If President Zuma seriously wants to unite all South Africans behind the goals of his second phase he would be well advised to respond positively to this call.
By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation